Zoom meetings and work calls outside your time zone can be tricky to navigate.
Especially when they’re scheduled at the last minute.
You wake up to the screech of your alarm at 5 a.m. Feeling tired and disoriented, you drag yourself out of bed to brew a cup of coffee that’s a little too strong for this early hour.
The whole neighborhood is still sleeping, and you start re-considering your career choices. Whose bright idea was it to schedule a mandatory meeting for the team a mere 12 hours prior?
The meeting begins and you note how fresh and energized your colleagues from the other side of the world look. Meanwhile, your mind is so foggy that you barely comprehend everyone’s status updates on the topic at hand.
The unbearable call finally ends and you sign off wondering, “Why wasn’t this an email?” Sadly, it’s too late to get back the rest you need to be productive. With a sigh, you open your email and the workday begins.
Do scenarios like this have you at your wit’s end? Then it’s time your team invests in capable asynchronous communication tools that will allow each team member to communicate while avoiding interruptions from last-minute Zoom meetings.
Let’s explore the tools that have the power to make your team more flexible by eliminating the need to Zoom around.
Disclaimer: The information presented in this article was collected from publicly available sources and updated on January 25, 2023.
Table of contents
- What is asynchronous communication?
- Asynchronous communication vs. synchronous communication
- 5 types of asynchronous communication tools for frictionless remote work
What is asynchronous communication?
Asynchronous communication is the process of exchanging information over communication channels that don’t require both the sender and the receiver to be present in real-time when the messages are sent.
In other words, asynchronous communication is communication that doesn’t happen right away. That’s why it is a great method for keeping up with coworkers, colleagues, and friends in different time zones.
Asynchronous communication helps teams eliminate the need for scheduling and attending meetings at strange hours for workers across the globe while ensuring that everybody is in the loop.
And that’s not all!
Benefits of asynchronous communication
Teams that leverage asynchronous communication generally benefit from:
- Less stress as there’s no need to respond immediately to colleagues’ messages
- Better focus and higher productivity thanks to fewer interruptions and notifications
- An easily-accessible messaging archive
- More flexibility and better collaboration with people across different time zones
- Full control over their own time that is dedicated to their work
- A better work-life balance
That is not to say that asynchronous communication doesn’t have its downsides! For example, with asynchronous tools, communication is usually slower and instant replies cannot be expected.
When urgent matters are afoot, asynchronous communication probably isn’t the best option, despite its flexibility for all parties involved.
Despite the few disadvantages async communication has, the pros of creating an asynchronous communication strategy far outweigh the cons.
Examples of asynchronous communication
The most common form of asynchronous communication is email. Think about it: you receive emails from coworkers all the time that don’t necessarily expect you to provide a response immediately.
Tools for file sharing, streaming, learning management, messaging, and feedback work on the same principle:
Someone shares information with you via their channel of choice and you’re not expected to respond in real-time.
Using these types of tools is especially useful for creative teams that have feedback-reliant workflows. Specifically, asynchronous tools give creatives the chance to collect, process, apply, and store feedback without the need for a real-time client meeting (that usually doesn’t provide clear feedback anyway).
Take MarkUp.io as an example.
As a platform, MarkUp.io supports asynchronous communication by providing one centralized location for feedback that can be accessed by team members at any time of day. So, instead of slacking your coworker halfway around the world at the end of their workday, you can find the information you need without the need for real-time communication.
Asynchronous communication vs. synchronous communication
Let’s set some things straight: we’re not saying you should never use synchronous communication!
Synchronous communication has its rightfully-earned place in corporate culture. At the end of the day, there are some things you just can’t do without a phone call, a real-time meeting, or a good old face-to-face talk and a firm handshake.
Benefits of synchronous communication
In-person and/or real-time interaction is not only needed but is also beneficial in some situations. Synchronous communication is:
- The best option for communicating sensitive information
- Making crisis management easier as it promotes instant response
- A great way to encourage brainstorming
- Making more sense in office-based work environments
The advantages of using synchronous communication tools stop here.
The cons, however, are seemingly never-ending.
Synchronous communication has the potential to cause everything from productivity stalls and distractions to workflow disruption, stress, and scheduling difficulties.
Examples of synchronous communication
Synchronous communication is the exact opposite of asynchronous communication.
So, if asynchronous communication doesn’t require people to be online at the same time, synchronous communication is the other way around; people need to be working at the same time, in the same place (be it a real-world location or a virtual meeting room), and be able to communicate in real-time.
As such, examples of synchronous communication include:
- Video calls and video conferences
- Phone calls
- In-person team meetings
- Instant messaging (i.e., Slack messages)
Is asynchronous communication better for remote teams?
Since all teams have unique needs, there is really no one-size-fits-all response to this question.
The architecture of a remote-first organization’s virtual workspace needs to be built with care so that team communication and collaboration go as smoothly as possible.
And, considering that both communication types have their advantages and disadvantages, we think it’s best to combine the two into one efficient stream of communication.
For instance, you can leverage one-on-one video conferencing when it’s time to give someone a raise, review employee performance, catch up with your team, or for regular check-ins.
At the same time, you can use an asynchronistic communication tool to request and provide feedback on creative deliverables, product documentation, and client-facing projects.
Even though we’re not against it, we advise you to keep the number of unnecessary meetings as close to zero as possible.
Before scheduling any call, just ask yourself if what you want to communicate can be put in an email.
Is the answer yes? Well, you know what to do.
5 types of asynchronous communication tools for frictionless remote work
We’ve selected five asynchronous collaboration and communication solutions (with examples) to help you establish the best possible communication strategy for your remote team.
Type #1: Asynchronous messaging apps
Any messaging app can be an asynchronous communication channel (if you’re brave enough).
All you have to do is turn off the notifications on your communication apps (i.e. Microsoft Teams, Slack, Skype, etc.). Alternatively, you can just ignore any text message sent your way until you’ve finished your to-do list.
Of course, these tactics are not super realistic for many work environments. When people reach out to you via synchronous messaging tools, they expect you to get back to them fast. In some cases, a response is urgent and needed right away.
For an asynchronous messaging strategy to work, it has to be implemented and encouraged across the entire organization. It has to become the go-to communication method in order for it to work properly.
Jokes aside, examples of asynchronous messaging tools that don’t require an immediate response include:
- Loom: Helps you record short video messages and share them with coworkers via a custom link. You can record your screen, your webcam, or both at the same time. Basically, it eliminates the need for screen-sharing meetings on Zoom.
- Twist: Provides structured channels for threads with important information only, eliminating distractions and helping teams focus on the task at hand in order to get some deep work done.
- Threads: Keeps discussions relevant and improves the visibility of important information through conversation threads across forums.
- Email: This was, is, and will continue to be the go-to asynchronous communication channel where important information is shared. It’s even used to sum up real-time meetings! So, we say email is here to stay.
Type #2: File-sharing tools
Even though the first thing that might come to mind when hearing about file-sharing is email attachments, please reconsider that thought. Spare your co-workers the dread that comes with receiving an email stuffed with scattered attachments and zipped files.
Instead, help your colleagues spend less time scavenging for decentralized email attachments with tools like:
- Google Docs: Enables you to create and share documents with your teammates via a link and viewing/editing access.
- Google Drive: Allows you to upload and share cloud-stored files with your team via a link.
- Dropbox: Features link-enabled file-sharing for photos, videos, archived file folders, large CAD files, and other file formats and types.
- Sync.com: Provides secure file storage and document collaboration platform suitable for remote teams.
- FileCloud: Help users provide remote access to files to collaborators, clients, and coworkers.
Depending on your file-sharing needs, you can also opt for a visual feedback tool with file-sharing capabilities (or not). This type of tool is ideal for creative professionals that need to frequently request client reviews, including graphics, advertisements, designs, and more.
Speaking of feedback…
Type #3: Feedback and annotation tools
File-sharing tools are great for teammates that only need to transfer files from one person to another. When feedback is added to that equation, file-sharing on its own is not enough to ensure a frictionless creative workflow.
Think about it: you share your draft with a reviewer using a file-sharing app. The reviewer gets your file and starts taking screenshots of elements that need revisions. Then, each screenshot is marked-up with doodles in Microsoft Paint and attached to a looong email detailing the needed changes.
That’s so counterproductive, don’t you think?
Not only does it take time and effort for the reviewer to compile their comments (time that could probably be better spent elsewhere 🙃), but it also creates an inconvenient work environment for you. For instance, you’ll need to cross-reference multiple screenshot files with the revisions needed to your working document.
Instead, you can use a feedback and annotation tool to share your file and collect contextual feedback that will not require hours of your time to decrypt.
You can then share your MarkUps with clients, collaborators, higher-up professionals in the organization, and other stakeholders via a link or email invitation.
Once a reviewer opens the link to your MarkUp, they can start adding pixel-accurate comments to any element on your project. This way, reviews become contextual and precise.
Ultimately, getting punctual feedback helps you shorten review cycles and get to project sign-off, faster.
Not only do feedback tools streamline creative workflows, but they also provide a perfect workspace for remote teams working on different schedules by keeping all feedback in one accessible, centralized location.
Examples of annotation tools include:
- MarkUp.io: A visual feedback and collaboration platform for frictionless review and approval cycles. It supports both real-time and asynchronous feedback sessions. Plus, the platform features a Loom integration that brings more clarity to remote feedback sessions.
- Miro: An online collaborative whiteboard platform that helps users brainstorm and review projects in one place using an infinite virtual canvas.
- PageProof: An online proofing tool suitable for quick work review and approvals.
- Filestage: A project approval platform that allows remote teams to share, approve, and deliver creative content more efficiently.
Type #4: Project management tools & task management apps
Team collaboration in remote-first environments is not always easy. The lack of workflow transparency makes it difficult for remote workers to comprehend how tasks connect with each other and what cascading effects a single delay can have (bottlenecks are always a pain, and put undue stress and pressure on the person who is delaying the process).
Luckily, project management tools and task management platforms address this issue successfully. Such apps include:
- Asana: A work management platform that helps teams create organized workflows, track and manage project progress, and increase visibility into the team’s workload.
- Trello: A Kanban-style app that enables users to create project boards in the form of to-do lists.
- Jira: An issue-tracking platform with agile project management features.
- Todoist: A task management platform that allows professionals to create and organize projects and tasks.
- Any.do: A productivity platform for task management, note-taking, collaboration, time-tracking, and time management.
- Basecamp: A project management and team communication platform that supports to-do lists, group chats, message boards, file-sharing, scheduling, and more.
Type #5: Learning management systems (LMS)
Asynchronous communication and asynchronous learning are two sides of the same coin.
Asynchronous learning is all about empowering your employees to study at their own pace, doing additional research when needed, and breaking down complex topics into more easily digestible information.
The tools that can help you leverage asynchronous communication include learning management system (LMS) platforms like:
- Docebo: An eLearning platform for employee training that supports both real-time and asynchronous learning.
- Moodle: An open-source learning platform for blended learning and distance education.
- Canvas: A learning platform that aims to make online learning easier for schools and businesses alike.
- Edmodo: A learning management app designed for academic environments that supports online tests, student performance tracking, homework assignment, and more.
In addition to helping you foster a continuous learning culture, LMS tools are great for onboarding new hires and customers, and for delivering new training to employees.
However, you need to keep in mind that asynchronous learning comes with disadvantages as well. Some of them include:
- Relies on learners’ intrinsic motivation and self-discipline
- Frequent misinterpretations/misunderstandings of course material
- Might lead to feelings of isolation
But that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage asynchronous learning as part of your learning strategy. You can still harvest its benefits by intertwining it with periodic real-time meetings and catch-up calls to clarify and work through difficult concepts.
The same goes for your communication strategy as well: balancing synchronous and asynchronous information exchanges is key to keeping remote employees engaged, productive, and happy.You know what else keeps employees focused and satisfied?
You guessed it: it’s MarkUp.io.
Our platform enables users to ditch unnecessary in-person meetings without losing the perks of video communication (learn more about our Loom integration here!).
With MarkUp.io, feedback sessions are easier to understand and complete. You get headache-free revision requests pinned contextually to your project.
This is the future of remote creative collaboration!
Are you in for a futuristic, frictionless review, and approval process?
If you enthusiastically said, “Yes,” try out your 14-day free trial with MarkUp.io. You’ll become an asynchronous communication wiz and increase collaboration while boosting productivity.